As we reach the end of the year, however, it does mean that I have read an enormous number of biographies and have had time – between feeding, burping and changing – to think about the nature of biography itself.
Besides historical and literary biography, there is autobiography and its close cousin, memoir.
But Virginia Woolf spent most of her life saying that the idea of biography is – to use a word she liked – poppycock.’ Stanley Wolpert concluded that biography was ‘closer to fiction than history’: that any work of biography is mendacious.
The vast and tiny venturing of a human into life that I have observed over the last months would not occupy more than the first half-sentence of most biographies.
There would be no fabric of history without them and sometimes we can only really feel the past one thread at a time.
Jeff Bezos gave an estimated 0.1 percent of his wealth in 2018.
But according to a table compiled and tweeted by UC Berkeley economist and wealth tax advocate Gabriel Zucman using data from Forbes magazine, the rich are barely giving any of their fortune away in any given year.
Arguably a more apples-to-apples comparison would be comparing giving to annual income, though income per se becomes much less important when you measure your wealth in the billions (your “income” is basically the amount by which your stocks and bonds grew in value that year).
But even given some errors in one direction or another, the conclusion is hard to dispute: Most billionaires are giving a pathetically small fraction of their wealth away.
The Chronicle estimates that Jeff Bezos, America’s richest man, donated $67 million between 2000 and 2017.